Bicycling: it can be a sport or a way of transportation. In major cities, rental bikes have been installed on every street corner for convenience. You may even own a cool fixed gear bike to use at your convenience. And if you’re going down the right kind of street, you’ll feel the wind against your face and suddenly feel infinite.
The best streets are the fastest, but in big cities, one must take care. Parallel parked cars throw their doors open without a care In the world and, speaking from experience, you’re going to want to keep an eye on those door, lest you find yourself flipping over. Even when they aren’t open, taxis are always reckless.
But there’s sports cycling and let’s just say this aloud – to hell with Lance Armstrong. Haven’t you grown sick of being told who your heroes should be? When the scandal surrounding Armstrong blew up, very few people were shocked. It’s your responsibility to admire who you do, not the media’s. And this writer was annoyed with Armstrong’s popularity long before he fell out of favour. We should admire those who don’t sleep in hyberbaric chambers, who just have the drive to push a little faster than the others.
Now that he’s defamed, we have a real chance to look up to those that take the practice seriously, especially when it comes to movies. Here are the eight best cycling movies in cinema history:
1. American Flyers (1985)
Who doesn’t love Kevin Costner? The actor trains his younger brother (David Grant) to conquer “the hell of the west” – a ride through the Rocky Mountains. But there’s a hitch – a history of cerebral anyuerism in the family. This touching, sweet film not only makes the case for family-over-athletic achievement – but one of the most dramatic, tear-jerking endings of sports films.
2. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Yep, Tim Burton’s shockingly funny film features the titular character riding a bike through America. It’s inventive, it’s funny and it has what some consider the most horrifying, random scare in any movie. Large Marge the trucker scares viewers to this day.
It may seem like a kid’s movie, as Tim Burton films often do, but there’s always a dark, twisted side to appeal to our more horrific sides. That said, nothing is scarier than Paul Ruebens in a pornographic theatre. He’s like Tiny Tim gone awry.
3. Bicycle Dreams (2009)
This 2009 documentary extensively covers the 2005 race across America. From the starting line in San Diego all the way to the other end of the continent, these riders suffer dehydration, sleep deprivation, difficult weather and hard-to-bike terrain. Never before has the idea of riding for the sake of it been better documented. It’s very much like the famous quote about climbing mountains. Why do it? Because it’s there.
4. A Sunday In Hell (1976)
This Danish documentary extensively covers the 1976 ride from Paris to Roubaix. Like Bicycle Dreams, many of the same challenges are faced and overcome. But what’s most interesting is that it doesn’t just cover the race, but also the political and social turmoil of France. You start to understand that bicycles aren’t everything, but they’re a welcome escape from the realities of politics, daily life and ultimately being a citizen. If you’re an avid cycler, this is a must-watch.
5. Chasing Legends (2010)
Covering the 2009 Tour-de-France, Jason Berry’s documentary is from the perspective of Team Columbia-HTC. Forget Armstrong, these folks fought their hardest to win the race. If you are looking for the best cycling movies that really cover the nitty-gritty of the sport, you will love watching Chasing Legends.
6. The Flying Scotsman (2006)
This autobiograpical film covers the life of Scottish amatuer cyclist Graeme Obree, who at first lost, then won the record for the world one-hour distance record. Suffering from a crippling bi-polar disorder, the film is all about overcoming what holds us back.
Never was there a more inspiring film about bicycling, and it quickly became one of the best cycling movies in history. An added bonus, the film includes Brian Cox (the first Hannibal Lector well before Anthony Hopkins dominated the role) as a minister who befriends the atheistic Obree.
7. Breaking Away (1979)
Peter Yates is one of the most underrated directors of all time, from the fantastic The Ruling Class to this coming of age drama. Following a group of four teenagers comprised of a young Dennis Quaid, Dennis Christopher, Daniel Stern and Jackie Earle Haley as they graduate high school, each one is unsure where their lives will lead.
As they grow, they soon realize cycling is the best option. The film won best screenplay, and is a surprising touching addition to the well-worn coming of age subgenre.
8. Premium Rush (2012)
This one is just a blast. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a delivery man in New York City who is largely aimless, until he accidentally picks up a mysterious package and is on the run (ride) from a corrupt cop. Michael Shannon is eccentrically evil, and the film plays out with the kind of pace a bike ride. It’s thrilling from start to finish, making it one of the best cycling movies in cinema history.